Accor tells hotel workers in Indonesia: lie and you can have your job back

Accor tells hotel workers in Indonesia: lie and you can have your job back

For a company that repeatedly fails to tell the truth in its reports to the authorities in France under the Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law and its reports to shareholders, Accor’s actions in Indonesia suggest this is becoming part of its corporate culture.

Accor has repeatedly denied that workers unfairly dismissed at Fairmont Sanur Bali in July 2020 were terminated because they formed a union Serikat Pekerja Mandiri (SPM) and joined the IUF-affiliated FSPM.

However, after declaring that the selected workers were redundant for business reasons, union members were then individually offered their jobs back. The condition was that they sign a letter lying about what had happened.

“It is true that I work as Fairmont Hotel employee, hereby declare voluntarily and knowingly without any coercion from any party that I have never joined the membership of Serikat Pekerja Mandiri (SPM). Thus, I made this statement letter in truth.”

As members of a trade union, SPM, duly registered with the Department of Manpower in accordance with the law, Accor was asking them to sign a document saying they never joined. A lie. Four signed and got their jobs back. Thirty-eight refused to lie and continued their struggle for reinstatement. [See the video UnFairmont about this struggle against unfair dismissal.]

So if you lie you can work for Accor. Without a union. And without the internationally recognized human right to freedom of association that Accor claims to respect.

Now after 10 months they have no chance of returning to work and restoring their rights. Apparently the hotel will be rebranded under another international hotel chain, as Accor walks away from its responsibility in a pandemic. Ruined lives in its wake.

In its next report to the French government under the Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law, will Accor’s Vigilance Plan mention the issue of the violation of worker and trade unon rights in Bali, Indonesia, as a human rights risk? Will Accor admit that it failed to guarantee the fundamental human right to freedom of association? The case of Myanmar suggests the answer is “no”. The company makes no mention of human rights risk in Myanmar where their business partner was named in a UN Human Rights Council report as a crony of the military. If left unchallenged, that sets a dangerous predecent.

They refused to lie, so cannot work at Accor…..

eliminating child labour in agriculture needs guaranteed living wages, fair crop prices and freedom from debt

eliminating child labour in agriculture needs guaranteed living wages, fair crop prices and freedom from debt

In 2019 the United Nations General Assembly declared 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour (IYECL). The prospects of any progress towards this goal are extremely dim. As we have already witnessed, decades of neoliberal policies created extreme vulnerability among working people and turned the pandemic into a crisis. As we enter the worst global recession since the 1930s and the worst global food crisis in 50 years, there is a risk that child labour will increase over the next decade. What the UNCTAD Trade and Development Report 2020 calls “the lost decade” will also be a lost decade for children exploited in all forms of child labour.

The greatest exploitation is in agriculture where 108 million children work, constituting 70% of child labour. While poverty is the obvious context of child labour, we have worked with our members in agriculture and plantations to identify three key drivers of child labour:

  1. piece rate wage systems
  2. unfair crop prices
  3. denial of human rights and debt

 

There are of course other causes of child labour that need to be addressed. Identifying these three specific drivers helps to identify solutions.

  1. We must establish guaranteed minimum wages as a living wage throughout the year and stop wage theft and unfair deductions. Agricultural, farm and plantation workers can only do this through the right to organize (as defined under ILO Convention No.11) and through collective bargaining. This is also a critical issue in the supply chains of transnational companies that claim to be addressing child labour. By allowing suppliers to deny the right to freedom of association and impose piece-rate wage systems, these companies are perpetuating child labour.
  2. We must guarantee fair crop prices and collective bargaining to ensure this translates into better, more stable incomes throughout the year. This also requires government crop price support schemes. Again, transnational companies claiming to eliminate child labour in their supply chains need to ensure fair prices are paid. The premium should be paid to small and marginal farmers and farm workers, not layers of traders and “middlemen” or certification bodies.
  3. We need to recognize the causes of debt in the context of lack of access to human rights. (The report to the UNHCR on private debt and human rights in January 2020 provides a useful framework for this.) We must eliminate the causes of family debt and ensure free access to health care and education and access to affordable housing, food & nutrition. We need to extend social protection and livelihood assistance to all small and marginal farmers and farm workers. (ILO Recommendation No.202 is an important instrument in defining the scope of this social protection.) Social protection must be financed through corporate taxes. Transnational companies that claim to be eliminating child labour through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) schemes should also stop hiding in tax havens or demanding tax holidays.

Another aspect of our program is to incorporate the elimination of child labour into our work on climate change and climate justice. We are working with our affiliates to develop a better understanding of the link between child labour and climate crisis and climate migration, as well as biodiversity loss and environmental destruction. Climate change and biodiversity loss lead to debt, displacement, and climate migration. There is a higher incidence of child labour among climate migrants as they desperately seek work elsewhere. There is also a higher risk of trafficking in children. Our affiliates in several countries, particularly India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, have been campaigning for crop subsidies and livelihood assistance for farmers and farm workers affected by climate change. These demands should be seen as vital to the elimination of child labour.

Download higher resolution JPEG piece-rate wages [1MB] or PDF piece-rate wages [3MB]

Download higher resolution JPEG unfair crop prices [3MB] or PDF unfair crop prices [10MB]

Download higher resolution JPEG debt & human rights [1MB] or PDF debt & human rights [1MB]

International Workers’ Day in Hong Kong and solidarity in the Asia-Pacific region

International Workers’ Day in Hong Kong and solidarity in the Asia-Pacific region

Despite political repression and restrictions on rallies and public activities,  HKCTU organized a public event on On May 1st, International Workers’ Day. The public exhibition and leafleting drew public support despite a heavy police presence. The activity raised awareness of the struggle for worker and trade union rights and the imprisonment of trade unionits fighting for democracy. Police stormed the public event at the last minute in a failed attempt to create fear. [See Times of Turbulence, Our Call to Resistance: HKCTU’s statement on International Workers’ Day 2021] The IUF Asia/Pacific Regional Organization conveyed a message of congratulations to HKCTU for their courage in celebrating International Workers’ Day.

As part of their International Workers’ Day avtivities and rallies across the region IUF members included solidarity for the workers of Hong Kong and Myanmar in their May 1st message.

Regional Secretary’s solidarity message on International Workers’ Day – 1 May 2021

Regional Secretary’s solidarity message on International Workers’ Day – 1 May 2021

On International Workers’ Day we will have all sorts of demands in different countries, depending on different situations. But I think what unites us is that we know that working people deserve better. We know that we need to come together to build the economic, political and social power to make the changes needed so that we will never again face a pandemic like this and a crisis like this. So that we will never again see such suffering and hardship on this scale.

We need to ensure that everyone has access to universal free health care and that everyone’s jobs and incomes and livelihoods are protected. We must ensure that there are public goods and services to provide for us. We need to rebuild quality education, quality housing, quality healthcare. And the only way to rebuild that is to ensure there is corporate taxation, capital gains tax – that we tax the rich. We must shift wealth to working people. We must shift wealth to all the public services and public goods that are needed by working people. This must happen.

It’s no longer a policy debate. It’s absolutely a matter of our survival and this pandemic has shown us that.

Links to the video message with subtitles in different languages:

日本語 Japanese 

繁體字 Chinese

ဗမာဘာသာစကား Burmese

Bahasa Indonesia

ภาษาไทย Thai

اردو Urdu

हिन्दी Hindi

বাংলা Bengali

Trade unionists at Coca-Cola Philippines are being red-tagged. Why is the company failing to uphold freedom of association?

Trade unionists at Coca-Cola Philippines are being red-tagged. Why is the company failing to uphold freedom of association?

“Red-tagging” in the Philippines is an orchestrated campaign of fear and intimidation that denies workers their fundamental human right to freedom of association. It not only forces workers to give up their right to freely choose their union. It creates the conditions in which employers choose which unions workers can or cannot join. [See Fear in the Philippines. How “red tagging” by the police & military also kills the right to freedom of association ]

Among the thousands of workers facing the direct effects of red-tagging in the Philippines, workers at Coca-Cola Philippines – which is owned and operated by The Coca-Cola Company [TCCC] – face a higher incidence of threats and coercion than other companies in the food and beverage industry.

We should be clear that attacks on independent, democratic trade unions by Coca-Cola management in the Philippines started well before government orchestrated red-tagging. As in Indonesia under Coca-Cola Amatil [CCA], management unfairly terminated the leaders of independent, democratic trade unions to prevent workers exercising their collective bargaining rights. In both Indonesia and the Philippines, Coca-Cola bypasses industrial relations with real unions to deal instead with unions created or controlled by management. Imposing changes – not negotiating change – underpins their failed business model. This failure to respect human rights now converges with a government campaign to dismantle those rights.

In its efforts to undermine the collective bargaining strength of independent unions under the IUF-affiliated FCCU-SENTRO in the Philippines, management colluded with yellow unions to create a new organization called Coca-Cola Beverages Logistics Union [COCBLU]. Workers in several Coca-Cola sales and distribution centres were systematically coerced into joining COCBLU. There were several instances where workers found themselves listed as COCBLU members even though they never joined.

The escalation in red-tagging by the police and military created an opportunity for management to pursue the growth of COCBLU and the eradication of FCCU more aggressively. At the Coca-Cola bottling plants in Davao and Bacolod, local management invited senior police officers to speak at “town hall” meetings (a meeting called in a workplace for all employees). In these meetings  the IUF-affiliated FCCU-SENTRO was deliberately misrepresented as being affiliated to the communist union federation linked to the armed insurgency of the of the New People’s Army [NPA]. The President of FCCU  – already terminated by the company in May 2020 when he tried to ensure workplace safety in the pandemic – was falsely described as a communist union leader linked to the NPA.  End of meeting. Management hoped it was the end of FCCU-SENTRO as an independent, democratic union in their workplace.

Elsewhere police officers directly interfered in the union certification elections to influence workers’ votes. Workers at the Coca-Cola Tagum Distribution Center in Davao del Norte, for example, were visited by police officers who told them not to vote for FCCU-SENTRO-IUF because it supports the armed communist insurgency. The policer officers explicitly instructed workers to vote for the Southeast Mindanao Coca-Cola Beverages Logistics Union [SOMINCOCBLU] instead. Suddenly it is no longer an election in which workers vote for the union they trust will defend their rights and interests. It becomes instead a struggle to overcome uncertainty and fear. Simply voting for FCUU-SENTRO-IUF means facing the risk of red tagging and more police visits. It is no longer a right but a tremendous act of courage.

The question remains as to the extent to which the national management of Coca-Cola Philippines are involved in the use of the police and military to exert pressure on workers to quit FCCU-SENTRO-IUF. Even at local level it is possible that only some elements of management – using their personal links to the security forces and engaging in corruption – are involved. On 3 March 2021, FCCU-SENTRO-IUF wrote to Coca-Cola Philippines management:

“Workers of Coca-Cola in many areas around the country, especially leaders and members of FCCU, are now facing extreme anxiety due to the intimidation and red-tagging of government security personnel. Before things go out of hand, we believe that we should work together to jointly protect the workers of Coca-Cola. In this light, we would like to request an urgent meeting with management.”

There was no response. No meeting. The refusal to even to meet with the union to discuss the safety of Coca-Cola workers suggests serious criminal negligence, if not outright complicity.

In March 2021 the red-tagging of the leaders of Samahang Manggagawa sa Coca-Cola [SAMACOKE-FCCU-SENTRO] and SENTRO organizers in Davao City escalated to a level that posed a serious risk to their lives. In response Senator Risa Hontiveros submitted a resolution to the Senate of the Philippines on March 24, 2021. The resolution cites serious red-tagging incidents, including at Coca-Cola Philippines, and calls for action by the Senate to investigate and seek to legislate against red-tagging. The resolution observes that: “… this State-endorsed practice of red-tagging has given rise to naked impunity on the part of law enforcement agents and has as chilling effect on organizers, trade unions, and the freedom of association guaranteed by the 1987 constitution…..”

 

Fear in the Philippines. How “red tagging” by the police & military also kills the right to freedom of association

Fear in the Philippines. How “red tagging” by the police & military also kills the right to freedom of association

When President Duterte called on the police and armed forces to “kill them all” in March 2021, he was referring to anyone suspected of being involved in the armed communist insurgency.  Like his war on drugs that cost the lives of anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 people in extra-judicial killings, security forces are again authorized to kill indiscriminately. They do so with the guarantee they will not be held accountable or investigated. They do so with impunity.  So far more than 50 trade unionists have been killed.

But “red tagging” has a much wider purpose, creating fear among tens of thousands of workers throughout the Philippines. “Red tagging” involves an accusation that a trade union organization, individual union leaders, organizers or members are directly or indirectly involved in the armed communist insurgency. This accusation is enough for trade union leaders, organizers or members to be detained and questioned by the military and police. It needs no evidence. Just the accusation.

What makes this even more insidious is that these accusations are not made through official, verifiable channels. Anyone from the security forces, police or military, with or without uniforms, in military bases or police stations, or in the street or in workers’ homes, can tag a trade union leader or organizer as “red”. This adds to the uncertainty and heightens the fear.

The multiplier effect occurs when workers hear of these allegations and – out of fear of also being tagged as red – withdraw their support from the union. They change their minds and vote no to forming a union, quit their union, or join another union declared politically acceptable by the armed forces.

This also creates opportunities for employers. Employers can rid their workplaces of trade unions they don’t like. Workers end up joining only those unions deemed politically safe by the security forces and acceptable by employers. In some cases employers have invited the security forces to visit the workplace to instill this fear. [ See Trade unionists at Coca-Cola Philippines are being red-tagged. Why is the company failing to uphold freedom of association?]

Workers are increasingly led to believe (again without any need for evidence) that union dues are being used to finance the armed insurgency. Even if workers don’t believe it (and the vast majority don’t), it doesn’t matter. The risk of possibly being accused is enough: of being dragged off to be interrogated by the security forces, or being questioned by the police or military in your home. It is a visceral threat. Workers feel it.

As a consequence workers in the Philippines can no longer exercise their internationally recognized right to freedom of association. They are not free to form or join trade unions. Any choice they make is determined by the security forces and – in several cases – employers.  They are told who they cannot and should not support. They come to understand that choosing a trade union is no longer based on whether that union can defend and advance their rights and interests. It is instead based on the likelihood of being targeted as a supporter of the armed insurgency. It’s no longer about rights, but risks.

At this point national laws guaranteeing the right to freely join a union become redundant. And the internationally recognized human right to form or join a union is no longer a right. It is a risk. Integral to all human rights is the certainty of having that right – of knowing that you and those around you have the right. This is compromised in the climate of fear and anxiety created by “red tagging”.  In an environment of such tremendous uncertainty, with unlimited possibilities of severe consequences, workers can no longer be certain they have this right to choose to form or join a union. And instead they may end up choosing not to choose.